Self-publishing how to–PART 6

Formatting the interior-1

From Rick:

DISCLAIMER: I am not a book designer. Therefore, what I have to say regarding interior design should not be taken as absolute or necessarily the best way to format your book’s interior. However, I’ve successfully formatted two books to date (Punctuation For Fiction Writers, abbreviated PFFW hereafter) and the newly released 2015 Write Well Award Anthology, abbreviated WWA hereafter) and they have turned out just fine. I did have a graphic designer look them over. He gave them his nod of approval.

This section of the self-publishing tutorial will be in two parts because there are quite a few things to consider.

If you only plan to publish an e-book, then most of what follows here about font choices is irrelevant. In e-books, the fonts are controlled in the e-reader and can be changed by the user in most cases. In that case, it matters little if you use a standard font such as Courier New or Times New Roman to upload the book.

Even so, there are a couple of things you should pay attention to. Use SINGLE spacing in the file you upload. Double or 1.5 spacing in an e-book looks, among other things, amateurish. Be sure you use first-line indent for the paragraphs (indent, not tab). Some folks use 0.5” indent, but that’s usually too much. Try 0.3” or even 0.25” for a smoother look.

Do not use headers, footers or page numbers for your e-book. If you plan to do a print version, you will need to create a separate file for it, but before you do that, be sure the manuscript is indeed in final form and well edited. It’s a royal pain to have to make changes in two different files.

NOTE: When I formatted PFFW I used block formatting, meaning that I did not first-line indent the paragraphs. Instead, I put space between them. This blog is block formatted, for example. I used the block format in PFFW because we wanted a textbook look to it and also because it had several types of paragraph indenting throughout that would not have come out right with first-line indents. For novels and similar books, indented paragraphs generally look better and more professional than block-formatted ones.


If you plan to do a print book, pay close attention to the next sections. Courier New and Times New Roman (and Arial and Calibri) are among the worst font choices for print books. Check out the following articles.




When selecting a font, you want to consider two factors: ease of reading and page count. You don’t want to annoy readers with tiny print just to keep the page count and cost down. You’ll lose sales. For the two books I’ve released as print on demand (POD), I used Georgia 11-point for the font. I hear you questioning the 11-point font size as maybe being too small. Georgia is a somewhat large font (just like Courier New is larger than Times Roman), and 12-point Georgia starts to look more like large-print (and seriously increases the page count).

Georgia 11-point has a good look and yields a reasonable page count. In PFFW I used single line spacing, but in WWA I used 1.1 line spacing.

“Wait, Rick,” you say. “I know about 1.15 spacing in Word, but 1.1? How do you do that?” You can use ANY spacing in Word that you want, even something less than 1.0. You do that with the line spacing option of MULTIPLE, where you can choose your spacing. Why didn’t I use 1.15? Well, in the Styles menu, it’s not a separate option for one. I could have specified it in MULTIPLE, but that extra 0.05 also added 20 pages. The book was already 392 pages. The 1.1 looked good.

Why didn’t I use 1.0 spacing instead of 1.1 if I wanted to save pages? Well, single-spaced Georgia gives rather tight line spacing and isn’t as easy on the eyes because of that. It looks a bit cramped. WWA was a book of short stories, something more likely to be read page by page for long periods. PFFW is a reference book, and the paragraphs are short and in block format, so the tighter spacing wasn’t an issue.

In traditional publishing where large print runs are done inexpensively, additional pages don’t add as much to the cost. POD books are more expensive, so you have to make intelligent decisions to keep you book’s cost as low as possible. If the cost is too high people won’t buy it. If you make the print too difficult to read, you might well get complaints or bad reviews and lose customers.


POD allows you to select from several book sizes (called trim sizes). Here’s is a link to some guidelines.


CreateSpace (and presumably other POD printers) charges per page regardless of size. Using a larger page (6×9 as opposed to 5.5×8.5) is one good way to keep your page count down, but don’t do something stupid like using 8.5×11. That’s an awkward size to hold and read for a novel.


I highly recommend that you download one of the CreateSpace book templates and use it as your starting point for setting margins and other aspects of your book’s interior.

The size of the page margins affects the amount of print on the page. I’ve seen many indie authors (and some small publishers) use narrower margins. Remember that you have to hold the book comfortably. If the OUTSIDE margin is too narrow, your thumbs may cover part of the text. The reader should not have to adjust his hold on the book to see everything on the page when reading.

At the same time, you don’t want the INSIDE margins too narrow so that the reader has to bend the book further open (and possibly cause damage the spine). Your reader’s comfort should always be a priority.

There is one other margin number to consider. Many people are not aware than in print books the text is not centered on the page from left to right. This is because you have to allow extra space for the binding that doesn’t permit the book to open flat. The GUTTER (or gutter margin) is the extra space in the inside margins that allows for the binding. The thicker the book, the larger the gutter needs to be. However, if you have a spiral-bound book or some binding that permits the book to open truly flat, then the gutter should be zero and the margins even.

How large should your gutter be? The CreateSpace template for a 6×9 book defaults to 0.13. This is okay for smaller books (maybe up to 200 pages), but bigger ones need more gutter. I used 0.2 for WWA.

You can set your gutter to zero and adjust your outside and inside margins accordingly. Some people do that. It’s up to you. For consistency, you may want to use standard margins for all your books and change the only the gutter to adjust for thicker or thinner books.

For my two books, I used the following values for the inside, outside and gutter margins.

PFFW: Inside= 0.75, Outside= 0.50, Gutter= 0.13
WWA: Inside= 1.0, Outside= 0.75, Gutter= 0.20

In retrospect, I think PFFW could have used 0.75 for the outside margin (instead of 0.5), but it works as is. WWA I think had an inside margin a tad too large. I may change it to 0.75 for next year’s anthology (if the page count is not significantly larger). But these are small points. Both books are still good as is.

The only way to know whether your margins and gutter are good is to see a printed proof. After you’ve done a few books, you’ll know by experience how to choose these. Until you have the experience, I strongly recommend ordering a proof copy to verify your choices. While an advantage of POD is being able to change the file at any time, changing margins is going to affect the page count and perhaps some other formatting. It’s best to have it right before releasing the book.

Next time, in part 2 of the interior layout, we’ll look at headers and footers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.